Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
“How in the world are we going to finesse this?” lamented Howard Bashford.
Bashford, a top aide to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was scanning the headlines about the collapse of the Solyndra solar power company.
“You will not – as you say – finesse anything,” answered Amy Handleman, the stern dominatrix of the Ministry of Propaganda. “Solar power is the future, and you will simply point out that the future always brings risks. We took a small risk on this clean green-energy firm, and like many investments, it just didn’t pan out.”
“S … small?” stammered Bashford, “$535 million of taxpayer funds – gone! How can we justify such a loss?”
“First of all, stop blubbering and man up,” commanded Handleman. “And stop saying ‘million.’ From now on, we’re going to say $535, times 100, cubed.”
“Um … my math’s a little fuzzy,” said Bashford.
“Fuzzy is how we like it,” snapped Handleman. “Also, we should point out that the funds were stimulus money, so it never really existed. Furthermore, Solyndra drew only $527, times 100, cubed, of the loan, so we’re $8 million in the black. We can say ‘million’ when it’s to our benefit.”
“I’m confused,” said Bashford. “How do you turn a $527 million loss into an $8 million gain?”
“That’s just the way we do the books in the Obama administration,” said Handleman dismissively.
“Your job is to come up with better ways of justifying the loan guarantee.”
“We can’t very well stick with the contention that it was a Bush administration idea,” said Bashford, and Handleman demanded, “Why not?”
“They rejected the loan before we took over,” the aide replied. “Rep. Cliff Stearns, the guy running the Solyndra hearings, said that ‘at the end of the Bush administration – the DOE Credit Committee voted against offering a conditional commitment to Solyndra, saying that the deal was premature and questioning its underlying financial support.’”
“That’s just mean-spirited,” said Handleman. “Besides, the Bushies started it and we simply followed out the Bush timeline – or what would have been the Bush timeline.”
“Never mind,” said Bashford, “maybe we can find something on the Solyndra website that will prove the company was worth the risk, in spite of our own people’s advice to the contrary.”
He brought the Solyndra site up on his computer flat-panel and scrolled up and down for some moments.
At last he said, “Well, here’s something, but we’d better just let it go. The company CEO that says, basically, Solyndra couldn’t compete with other manufacturers.”
“We can use that!” exclaimed Handleman. “It wasn’t their fault, so it can’t be our fault.”
“Yeah,” said the glum Bashford. “It wasn’t their fault they couldn’t compete. That’ll fly wonderfully with the American public.”
“Capitalist dupes!” Handleman muttered. “Maybe there’s something in the technical specifications that will help us justify guaranteeing the loan.”
Bashford was already perusing the website again. “Well,” he said, “There a section here that says the company’s cylindrical technology allows light snow to pass right through to the roof, and the system benefits from the increased albedo.”
“Hmmmm,” mused Handleman. “You’ve got something. We all know that sex sells.”
“That’s AL-bedo not LI-bido, Ms. Handleman,” sighed Bashford. “It means reflectivity.”
“Scientific terms are too confusing anyway,” said the propagandist, “but we can say that the Solyndra loan guarantee was a job creation gamble. Solyndra employs over 1,000 people.”
“It was 1,100,” said Bashford, morosely, “and you have to make that past tense: employed 1,100 people. They all were laid off.”
“Yes, of course,” said Handleman, “but we helped create those 1,100 jobs. And they were green jobs that were helping save our planet! How can you put a price on saving the planet?”
“The thing was a failure! An expensive failure!” shouted Bashford.
Handleman shouted back, “Haven’t you learned anything working for President Obama? The point is, we tried! Trying is the important thing. We tried, and if we failed, we failed heroically, saving the planet! And image how much worse things would have been if we hadn’t tried.”
“Nobody’s going to buy that how-much-worse line again,” sneered Bashford, “especially when restructuring the loan benefited a big Obama campaign contributor.”
“All right, then we’ll have to bring out the big gun – again,” said Handleman. She recited the script as she typed it into her laptop: “Why are those Republican congressmen picking on the most ethical and transparent administration in history? Why are they being so mean to this country’s first African-American president?”